Very beginner enlarger question... help wanted!

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by zinzin, Nov 18, 2004.

  1. zinzin

    zinzin Member

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    Hi, I am very new to it so I hope that some of you chaps and chapettes can help.
    Hopefully soon I will set a darkroom and start for the first time to develop and eventually print. I am a bit confused about the enlarger and I'd be very grateful for help and suggestions in choosing one and things/aspects to pay attention to.
    I will be mainly working in B&W
    35mm and/or Medium format (120)
    the darkroom is actually a bathroom (so it's going to be a "temporary" darkroom)
    Probably there should be more questions I should ask but being a very beginner, I cannot think of more right now. Maybe they will come later.
    Many thanks for any help
     
  2. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    Hello there Zinzin!!
    Well, since you really did not ask any questions, I'll just start by responding to some things you stated! :D
    Ok, you say that you will mostly be doing B&W... does this mean that you will also be doing some color?? If this is true and you will be doing primarily B&W, but also color, you will need an enlarger with color head. It has a "box" on the top and allows you to 'dial in' color settings. You can also use those color settings like filters when you are enlarging B&W. So an enlarger with a color head can do both, while an enlarger that does not have that head can only do b&W.

    Most enlargers will work for at least 35mm and 120mm. You may need different lenses for each size...I do for mine. I have an older Beseler 23C II which is a wonderful machine. I only do B&W. I have a 50mm lens for 35mm enlargements and a 75mm lens for my 120mm enlargements.

    I don't know if any of this is helpful, but it gave me a chance to limber up my fingers this morning! :wink:
     
  3. rogueish

    rogueish Member

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    This question has been asked a few times over the months I've been here. Try a search.
    Personally I got an Omega D2V at home in my "temporary darkroom" (read bathroom). It takes up to a 4x5 neg, but I am currently using it for 35 and 120 formats. Easy to use, not too bad for finding parts/service (in my area anyway).
    When you do look for a lens for the enlarger (no matter the brand) get the best lens you can afford (don't cheap out!)
     
  4. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    The things that I would consider are the rigidity of the design, the ability to be realligned should that be required, the size of the maximum print that you want to project on the baseboard. I would opt for either a color light head or a variable contrast light head considering that graded papers will probably continue to decline in availability. Both of these light heads will allow you to print on variable contrast paper. There are a number of excellent enlargers. I happen to favor the Durst for my large format condensor and Saunders for my large format diffusion enlargers. I have used the Omega C7670XL for medium format.

    Also of great importance is the enlarger lens. Typically you would use 80 mm focal length for medium format and 50 mm focal length with 35 mm negatives.
     
  5. rogueish

    rogueish Member

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    Too quick for my slow typing B&WGirl!
    I was about to mention the colour aspect (I also only do B&W). When looking at an enlarger, don't discount the larger ones that accept 4x5 negs. You just may want to go bigger someday.
     
  6. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    First you need to decide if your going to work with color negs or black and white, or both. If you entertain even the most remote notion of ever doing color, you'll need a color head for your machine. Those are good because they can also be used for black and white variable contrast paper. If you're only going to do black and white, however, a variable contrast B&W head will be fine. It's also possible to buy an enlarger head that utilizes white light and you can place filters above or below the lens if you choose to use variable contrast paper (which is the most popular kind at the moment.)

    The size of the baseboard is also important because it needs to accomodate the largest easel you'll be using for enlargements. Many baseboards only allow enlargements up to 11x14. If you want to enlarge further, you can wall mount the enlarger and not bother with the baseboard at all, or you can find some enlargers that will allow you to turn the head for projection on to a lower surface (the floor for example).

    There are lots of enlargers available now as people give up their darkrooms in favor of digi prints on their printers, so don't hesitate to look into the used market.

    Enlargers by Omega, Beseler, Durst, Saunders LPL, and Meopta come to mind quickly as reliable machines to consider but there are certainly others as well. Good luck.
     
  7. zinzin

    zinzin Member

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    Many thanks all for the very prompt reply. That "mainly working in B&W" should be actually read "only B&W", but you never now what may happen (one step at the time though). Also wondering if worth considering colour one anyway.
    Many thanks again for your advises. cheers
     
  8. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    Jeanette and rogueish have good advice. When I got back into home processing after a l-o-n-g layoff, I bought a Beseler C76 used and It did everything I needed until I got the Speed Graphic. Truly the lens system is the most important thing to consider with the light source next. A 5x4 enlarger might be a little clumsy in a bathroom-darkroom so a 7x6 might be better.

    Be advised: you may become addicted and suddenly desire to move up to medium or large format as soon as your work is displayed and sold(?) et c. If you stick with a 7x6 or larger enlarger, you can easily deal with this malady by adjusting your lens inventory.
     
  9. oriecat

    oriecat Member

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    I have an Omega B600. It does both 35 and 120 and I think it's pretty small, so it wouldn't be a big space user in a bathroom.
     
  10. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Yes, get a colour head even if you have no intention to print colour - it makes using VC paper easier as you can just dial in the filtering rather than inserting filters in a filter drawer.

    Have a look on ebay.co.uk to see what is available. With luck you can get an enlarger capable of using up to 6x6cm and a reasonable lens for under a hundred quid - less if you are not in a hurry:

    (http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=15225&item=3849209473&rd=1 / http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=15225&item=3850005213&rd=1 / http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=15225&item=3851187336&rd=1

    Those are auctions that finished in the last week. 35mm only enlargers are even cheaper.

    Alternately, try MXV and Mr Cad etc but you will likely have to pay a little more. The 4x5 enlargers others mentioned are big, very heavy (as in requiring two people to lift safely) and relatively expensive (say £300 - £500) and it can be awkward to use titchy little 35mm negs in them...

    Take a low stool in to the bathroom with you if you put the trays on a board over the bath - all that bending over is a pain in the neck (and the back, and the legs and the....).

    Try putting the enlarger on a computer table - the kind with castors. Then you can put most of the rest of the bits and bobs on its shelves and roll the whole thing in and out easily. Alternately, you can get large castors or wheels to fit yourself from B&Q/Homebase etc if you can't find a suitable desk with them.

    Your local library should have a coupe of suitable books, but if you are buying, any of the books sold by Silverprint for darkroom printing will do you nicely.


    Cheers, Bob.
     
  11. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    For B&W only work, a condenser enlarger gives sharper looking results than a colour diffuser type and putting VC filters in the draw is no great hardship. These should go above the image path, though, as they are not exactly optical quality. I have been using a Durst M370 BW for years and find it robust, stable, a good cost compromise and it can take negs up to 6 x 7. It is also small enough to be fairly portable if you are stuck with a temporary darkroom.

    If you are on a tight budget, spend most of your money on the lens. It's far better to put a top class lens on a cheap 2nd hand enlarger than to put a coke bottle on a high end enlarger. You can always replace the enlarger later if you really can't live with it and you can pick them up for next to nothing 2nd hand at the moment.

    As others have said, you will need two lenses if you want to do 35mm and 120 and you need to consider in advance how big you want to print. Some enlargers let you rotate the head if you want really big prints, so that you can bluetack paper to a wall and print right across the room. With your temporary darkroom, this might be an easier solution than using a massive enlarger.

    David.
     
  12. Melanie

    Melanie Member

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    HI
    I also have a bathroom darkroom and having a small enlarger is a plus, My way of setting up is to set the enlarger on a big plastic box with a lid, when not printing i put all my chemicals and trays etc in the box and then the enlarger sets on it, takes up a small amount of space. but anyway i have cardboard to put in the windows and put a old towel in front of the door. set my darkroom light up and set out the trays on the counter, i also put toothbrushes and cobs etc in the draws, and i have a piece of cardboard that i put behind my trays and attach my digital timers for each steep of the printing. picked up the timers at target for $6.oo each" works for me" for my enlarger i have a real darkroom timer. my enlarger is a unicolor, made in the 70's, dose 35mm and 120 and head will rotate to do very large prints on the wall. came with two lens and has a filter draw. i like it and it is working for me. and i think that is the key, have a set up that work for you, because you are the one that will be putting it up and taking it down each time.
    hope this helps ---> Melanie
    PS-- make sure you have an extra bulb for you enlarger at all times.
     
  13. g0tr00t

    g0tr00t Member

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    I bought a Durst M301 from Ebay. It collapses almost into a large shoebox. Ok, not that small, but I tell ya the base is almos the biggest part of the enlarger. Best thing about is that when I bought it and took it apart to clean it, I did it with 1 screw driver and it was about 15 pieces.

    It takes a standard house hold lightbulb too. I have the opaque filter that goes in between the bulb and condenser....

    Here is a sample:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=29985&item=3850178523&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW

    Here is a good size comparison next to the Omega C760
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=29985&item=3851515975&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW

    I also added a 50 2.8 lens (you need to get a high quality lens).
     
  14. Blighty

    Blighty Subscriber

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    Zinzin,
    I'm going to go against the grain here and suggest you get a condensor enlarger. It's true you can't really do colour work on them, but if you've no real intention of doing so then nothing's been lost. B+W multigrade printing on a 'condensor' is a doddle. It's just a matter of placing the appropriate filter in the filter drawer. Maybe a dichro head is easier in this respect, but only marginally so. I've also found that a condensor enlarger seems to print with more sharpness and punch, especially in the shadows, than a dichro (colour). Having used both types of enlarger I would never go back to using a dichro again. I will add one caveat; I've never used a large format (5"x4" or larger) enlarger, so I couldn't really say in this case which type would be better. But for 35mm or medium format, IMO condensor is 'king'. Regards, BLIGHTY
     
  15. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Another condenser crusader here. :wink:

    Like many others, I use an Omega D2V (the V is for variable condenser) that I bought back in the '60s. It replaced a Durst M600 that I had purchased about 2-3 years earlier, convinced that I'd never need anything beyond medium format. The Durst was a fine enlarger - relatively small and convenient. But, I made the mistake of looking at a 4x5 negative. :D

    I'd also agree with the suggestion that you put your money in the best lenses you can afford. Go for the six-element lenses, or even the newer APO designs if your budget allows. Better glass allows your negs to be all that they can be.
     
  16. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    Unless you use dual filtering or an exposure meter, colour head enlargers can be a pain with VC papers (the time changes when you change the filtration) where using the drop in filters keeps things very straightforward (same speed for filters 00-3.5, double your exposure for filters 4-5)

    However, a diffusion head (colour or VCCE) has it's advantages in hiding grain, dust and scratches (best not to get them in the 1st place though!). I recently bought a LPL C7700 (colour head) and compared to my Durst M601 (condensor) and once contrast was matched (the Durst was quite a bit more contrastier when print were made without any filtering) in my test prints, there was very little difference. Examining the print from inches away and with a loupe I could spot some differences (grain & the local contrast issues people discuss) I decided to sell the Durst.
     
  17. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    One advantage of colour heads for VC paper is if you use different papers which will require different amounts of filtering for the same grade. The exposure times between grades need not change: Ilford for example publish equal-exposure filtration tables for their papers.

    As you see, stick 10 photographers in a room and ask them any question and you will get 10 different, all perfectly correct, answers... :wink:


    Cheers, Bob.
     
  18. g0tr00t

    g0tr00t Member

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    This would make a great sig line. :smile:
     
  19. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I disagree, Bob. The average number of different answers from 10 photographers is usually closer to 12 or 13. :wink:
     
  20. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    zinzin:
    One thread or another around here suggested putting an ad in the local paper classifieds under wanted to buy darkroom. As I recall in the thread it elicited several responses with inexpensive or free darkrooms.
    You might want to try it in your neck of the woods.
     
  21. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I also have a tiny darkroom. I've struggled with the space for several years and just recently bought a new enlarger and other equipment to make things a little more efficient.

    First of all, I am prejudiced. I prefer condenser enlargers over diffusion enlargers. I've always used condenser enlargers except for one period of a little over a year when I used a Fujimoto color enlarger. I never liked the pictures I printed with it. Yes, condenser enlargers do make dust and scratches more apparent in the prints. But being careful with the film can minimize that and using Spotone is not hard to learn.

    As a first enlarger, you will find condenser enlargers are cheaper to buy than color or variable contrast enlargers when new and are more plenitful used. If you're not going to shoot 4x5, there's no reason to buy a large format enlarger and it will take up a lot of your valuable space in that closet. You will also want to decide what is the maximum size print you want to make. You will need an enlarger that will print up to that size plus some to allow for cropping. From personal experience, I've had an enlarger that easily allowed for a cropped 11x14 from 35mm but I couldn't get to 11x14 with a full 6x4.5cm negative. So watch for those limitations.

    Get good lenses. Until recently, I printed with an old Leitz Valoy enlarger I bought for $7.00 at a garage sale and a low-end Omega C700. But I used Leitz, El-Nikkor and Schneider lenses on these enlargers and the results were as good as anything done of multi-thousand dollar enlargers. The lens is more important than the enlarger as long as the enlarger is properly aligned and functions within your requirements.

    I'd look for a used enlarger first. Make sure all the parts are included. Some enlargers use supplementary condensers for different formats and some have separate lensboards. You must have a negative carrier for your formats as well--some have adjustable carriers for several formats but most use separate carriers for each separate format. If you buy a color enlarger, it may require a transformer. In the long run, it may be simpler to buy new to be sure you get all the pieces.

    Good luck.